Sunderland man travels through time – to save Doctor Who

Sunderland man travels through time – to save Doctor Who

Published on 22 November 2016

Rob Ritchie, from Doxford Park in Sunderland, is the creative force behind the newly ‘discovered’ Doctor Who adventure, The Power of the Daleks. The serial was originally broadcast in 1966, and was destroyed, with only the soundtrack and stills from the show surviving. It is considered one of the most important ‘lost’ serials, as it was the first to feature the second doctor, Patrick Troughton, and up until now fans would literally need a Tardis to travel back in time to see the show, which was only ever broadcast once, from November to December 1966.

But from next Monday (21 November) fans young and old can finally see the second Doctor’s first clash with his greatest enemies, as The Power of the Daleks is released as an animated DVD from the BBC. Up until now it was considered too expensive to recreate an entire serial in animated form, but the pioneering work of freelance animator and University of Sunderland graduate Rob Ritchie changed that.

"There are 97 missing episodes of Doctor Who from 1963 - 1969 and there have been attempts to animate the odd episode," explains Rob. "But the BBC had previously stated that animating an entire story – four to six 24 minute animated episodes - would not be financially viable."

Shortly after Rob graduated from the University of Sunderland in 2012 with his degree in Media Production, he was approached by a BBC producer who had spotted examples of his work on YouTube. Rob worked on a few editions of the BBC show Inside Out, providing animations and visual effects – and then the producer asked him if he would like to help him recreate another lost classic.

"Our next project was animating a lost story of Dad's Army. We took the surviving audio and recreated the visuals with 2D Animation," says Rob. "I was brought onboard to recreate the famous title sequence in HD Widescreen, and later asked to help with character animation.

"The Dad's Army animation sold incredibly well via the BBC Store, so naturally the BBC were eager to look at recreating other lost shows – and they turned their attention to Doctor Who."

In February 2016 Rob was asked to create a demo reel, which would be used to pitch a recreation of lost Doctor Who story The Power of the Daleks to senior producers at the BBC, blending 2D character animation with 3D animated Daleks.

Rob delivered them a trailer featuring Daleks and a monologue by the Doctor - after only a month’s wait they commissioned the project.

"I was initially only brought on board to make the trailer and animate the Daleks for the story but when we worked out the logistics of the production I was quickly promoted to CGI animator and Lead Compositor, a job that entailed piecing the whole project together taking the character animation and placing the characters in correct places, adding the backgrounds and creating visual effects."

The Power of the Daleks is considered the 'Holy Grail' of lost classic British TV shows which have been wiped from the archives. The serial marked the first time the Doctor regenerated, when ‘first’ Doctor William Hartnell turned into ‘second’ Doctor Patrick Troughton. The serial is released on DVD in black and white on 21 November to reflect how it was originally broadcast in 1966, with a full colour release on 31 December.

As well as the forthcoming DVD release there are 750 cinema screenings planned in the US, and 150 in Australia.

"The feedback has been fantastic," says Rob. "I just can't believe the scale of it!"

Rob’s involvement in the project was originally sparked by his studies at the University of Sunderland. As part of his Media Production degree he studied The Science Fiction & Fantasy TV module. The module has been running for nine years, and covers science fiction, horror and fantasy from the 1930s up to the present day.

Principal Lecturer John Paul Green teaches the module. He says: "We look at everything from Quatermass, through to Doctor Who, Star Trek and The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. It helps students not only develop their interest in the genre, but challenges them to apply their own knowledge and subject specialisms to the vast world of telefantasy.

"We discussed the ‘lost’ episodes of Doctor Who and the BBC's policy of wiping episodes. We used a small surviving clip of The Power of the Daleks during the lecture Rob attended.

"From next year, thanks to Rob, I'll be able to show new students all of this lost classic!"

The Power of the Daleks is available on DVD and digital download via the BBC Store.